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Cowboys Draft Blog #8 Center

April 25, 2013

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At one point this offseason I had center as a higher need than I do now. The Cowboys haven’t addressed the position this offseason so the same two players remain, Phil Costa and Ryan Cook, to battle over the starting job yet I realized that the center position wasn’t a strength of the team the past few seasons but also wasn’t a huge weakness of the line either. When healthy both Costa and Cook are average NFL starters which the Cowboys could better get away with if it weren’t for the horrible play from Mackenzie Bernadeau at RG in 2012 and Kyle Kosier at LG in 2011. Both were terrible and due to these issues the center was hung out to dry a bit due to the lack of talent around him. On the offensive line I would rank C behind RT and RG in priority of needing to be addressed in this draft yet there are 4 candidates that could be available in rounds 2-4 that make a lot of sense for Dallas if they decide to address this lower priority position. As always I will break them down and let you know who I think fits best and why.

Players possibly available for the Cowboys in the 2nd-4th rounds

Barrett Jones

Positives: For an offense that often seems to lack intelligence the best asset of Jones is his incredibly high football IQ. He also has elite versatility as he played tackle, guard, and center in his career and is the only player I’ve ever scouted that won both the Outland Trophy (best tackle in the country in 2011) and the Remington Award (best center in the country in 2012). Jones also has extremely long arms for a center and plays with great technique.

Negatives: He isn’t a great athlete and isn’t the strongest player. He lacks great upside and will never be an All-Pro type player due to his limitations. He is coming off Lisfranc surgery and it hasn’t recovered well which leaves him in doubt for the start of training camp. Considering how tough it is to start as a rookie at center he might be forced to play OG as a rookie and then take on the center responsibilities for a team in year 2.

Fit for the Cowboys: While Jones was almost universally regarded as the #1 C prospect at the end of the 2012 season I can’t find any, besides myself, who currently have him as their #1 C. The reason is the out of sight out of mind trick that befalls scouts every year as no scout watching Jones last year ever saw an elite physical specimen yet now he’s being criticized for obvious flaws he always had and is dropping unfairly due to it. His Lisfranc injury is worrisome but that will at most impact the early part of his rookie season and with his intelligence it’s unlikely to keep him from being ready by Week 1. He isn’t a Pro Bowl caliber player but I continue to think he’s deserving of a 2nd round grade as his intelligence, versatility, long arms, and experience in the SEC make him NFL ready. He’s exactly what the Cowboys could use and would be a steal if available in the 3rd round or later.

Khaled Holmes

Positives: The #2 C on my board due to his long arms, underrated strength, and impressive film the past 2 seasons.

Negatives: He is another player that isn’t a great athlete and could struggle against the more athletic defensive tackles due to his below average lateral quickness.

Fit for the Cowboys: He also fits for the Cowboys as he should be available in the 3rd round or later, my center rankings are very different from most scouts as my top 2 guys (Jones, Holmes) are the #3 and #4 guys on most boards, and while he lacks the athleticism to likely ever be a Pro Bowler he projects as an above average starter. My favorite part of his game though might be the ridiculous strength he has in his ’35 arms as he can often block two guys at once or block his man and use his off hand to help out a guard in a battle on his left or right. That attribute would be very helpful in Dallas where he would be working next to Mackenzie Bernadeau, a below average starter at RG, who could use all the help he can get.

Brian Schwenke

Positives: Is an ultra quick center with better size than advertised (6’3 314) that is good in pass protection. He anchored well against bigger nose tackles at the Senior Bowl and appears to fit any scheme while before the Senior Bowl the argument was that he was solely a zone center.

Negatives: He’s called undersized but his measurables really don’t paint that picture. His tape was very mediocre and while he looked like the best center in the draft at the Senior Bowl practices and Combine, in the actually Senior Bowl game he struggled and in 2012 he was never great for Cal. He appears to be more athlete than football player. He gets no movement in the run game.

Fit for the Cowboys: Many consider him the #1 center in the draft but the tape doesn’t show that and that’s where 75% of my grade on a player comes from. I think he’s a guy that has been overhyped through the draft process and will settle out only as a average starter in the league.

Travis Frederick

Positives: Many scouts have him as the #1 center in this draft as he’s by far the biggest and is an impressive run blocker.

Negatives: He only started one season at center, ran a horrific 40 (5.58) and both on tape and at the Combine looked slow and unathletic.

Fit for the Cowboys: He’s my #4 center despite being #1 on a lot of boards as yes he has size and strength but the guy isn’t athletic, doesn’t have long arms, and looks to me more like a mid round OG than an early round C. A poor fit for the Cowboys, his best fit is in a run oriented offense, that I also consider overrated so I wouldn’t touch the kid until the 4th or 5th round.

Players available for the Cowboys after the 4th round

Patrick Lewis-He reminds me of Ben Jones from Georgia as both started a ton of games, were discounted due to their poor height (Lewis is slightly under 6’1 which is a huge red flag for center prospects), and likely will develop into solid starters at either C or OG. I have a late 4th round grade but he might go undrafted so he’s a guy worth watching in the late rounds or even in free agency.

JC Tretter-A small school kid from Cornell that lit the Combine on fire. He was injured at the Senior Bowl so he couldn’t compete which sucks as I never got to see him on film but the reviews are high on this ultra athletic tackle that will be moved inside due to a lack of height (6’3-perfect for an OG/C, poor for an OT). He’s worth a shot in the late rounds as a project type.

Conclusion: I doubt the position gets addressed as the Cowboys have much bigger needs, this year’s draft doesn’t have a top notch center prospect like the past few years with Peter Konz, Mike Pouncey, and Maurkice Pouncey, and the Cowboys are set both with a starter and a quality backup that will provide competition to whoever wins the starting job. I’m a huge advocate of the center position as a value position, I have it ranked #2 behind only LT as the most important position on an offensive line, but think this isn’t the year to upgrade it.

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